Greater innovation is urgently needed to attract more overseas visitors to the west of Ireland, if the trend of fewer holidaymakers going west is to be reversed. From Donegal to Cork, the hospitality industry needs to create more distinctive reasons to visit. This is a key finding of a new report - New Directions for Tourism in the West - from the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC ).
An estimated 9.8 million bednights were spent on the west coast by overseas holidaymakers in 2010. This compares with 15.1m in 1999, a 37 per cent fall-off in demand. Last year just over half of all nights spent by holiday visitors to Ireland were spent along the west coast, down from a situation 10 years ago when two out of three bednights were spent west of the Shannon.
The report has been welcomed by Minister of State at the Department of Tourism and Sport Michael Ring who told the Mayo Advertiser that tourism providers in the west needed to work together to reverse this trend.
Minister Ring said the problem is that the industry in the west is selling bednights and the emphasis needs to shift to selling the west as a package promoting the top attractions such as the Ceide Fields, Croagh Patrick, the Great Western Greenway and Turlough House.
“That’s why €9 million that has been saved from the travel tax is being spent with Tourism Ireland outside the State to get more people into Ireland,” explained the Westport Minister.
According to Minister Ring what’s needed is for tourism providers to work together to attract more visitors to the west.
While he welcomed the report and some of the recommendations contained within it, he pointed out that two thirds of bednights that are filled in this country are filled by
the home market which has subsidised the fall off in oversea visitor numbers.
ITIC chairman John Healy said the report is an important step in helping to reverse the decline in overseas holidaymakers to the west of Ireland.
“Employment on the western seaboard is most reliant on local and public services and the traditional sectors, particularly tourism.” He went on: “Action needs to be taken now to reverse the overdependence that the west developed on the domestic market.”
The report points to the need to highlight more the range of adventure and activity holidays on offer together with ‘dialling up’ the appeals of local heritage, contemporary culture, eco/nature, music and the arts, the islands, the Gaeltacht, local food, and the range of festivals and sporting events.
The report, prepared by TTC- Tourism and Transport Consult International, analyses the loss of share of holidaymakers to Ireland going west, while an increasing number confine their visit to the capital and explore the west on a day trip from Dublin. To compensate for the limited number of ‘must see’ attractions along the western seaboard, the tourism industry faces the challenge of creating and delivering more distinctive and memorable experiences which exploit the natural, human and manmade assets of the area.